18 Best Cities In Vietnam You Must Visit For An Incredible Journey

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You must have heard of the timeless charm of Hanoi and the lantern-lit romance of Hoi An, but what about the regal elegance of Hue, the dynamic spirit of Hai Phong, or the tranquil beaches of Phan Thiet? Vietnam is like a treasure chest of cities, where the lesser-known are the hidden gems that sparkle with unexpected brilliance. From culinary conquests to historical haunts, these cities pack a punch that might outshine their celebrity siblings (just ask our travelers!).

In this guide to the 18 best cities in Vietnam, we’re spilling the secret sauce on destinations that will tantalize your wanderlust, so buckle up!¬†

18 Best Cities In Vietnam You Simply Cannot Miss

Just a heads-up, since this is the list of best cities in Vietnam, you’ll undoubtedly see some already famous names. But as you read on, you’ll uncover hidden gems that may transform your travel experience.¬†

Ha Giang – The Northern Jewel

Ha Giang is the perfect opening for our list of the “Best cities in Vietnam”. Located at Vietnam’s northernmost point, Ha Giang is notable for its wild and magnificent landscapes, featuring towering mountains and deep valleys. As a UNESCO Global Geopark, Ha Giang is distinguished by its geological diversity and rich cultural heritage, with numerous ethnic groups preserving their age-old traditions. The region’s less-traveled roads offer peace and authenticity that is harder to find in more popular destinations.

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Ha Giang Loop, the appealing route for adventure seekers

Highlight Experiences

  • Trekking through diverse terrains with stunning vistas
  • Motorbiking the Ha Giang Loop for breathtaking mountainous scenes
  • Exploring the Dong Van Plateau’s remarkable geology
  • Visiting the historical Vuong Family Mansion
  • Experiencing local culture at hill tribe markets
  • Taking in the panoramic views at the Ma Pi Leng Pass

>> Read More: A Full Guide To Conquer The Ha Giang Loop

Lao Cai – The Frontier Spirit

Lao Cai City is the capital of Lao Cai, a frontier province in Vietnam’s Northwest region. It is known for its cultural mosaic and the iconic Sapa, with its terraced rice fields and diversity of indigenous peoples. The province enjoys a cooler climate, providing a refreshing contrast to the tropical heat found elsewhere in Vietnam. Lao Cai’s position as a border province has made it a bustling trade center with a unique blend of Vietnamese and Chinese cultural influences.

Highlight experiences

  • Trekking to traditional ethnic villages surrounded by stunning landscapes
  • Shopping for local handicrafts and textiles at the Bac Ha market
  • Climbing Fansipan, the highest peak in Indochina, for adventurous spirits
  • Enjoying the cooler climate and scenic beauty of the Sapa region
  • Witnessing the vibrant assembly of different ethnic groups at local markets

Hanoi – The Capital with Timeless Soul

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a city where ancient history and modern times converge. Its well-preserved colonial buildings, ancient pagodas, and unique museums offer a glimpse into the country’s past, while bustling streets and vibrant markets showcase the energetic present. The Old Quarter’s maze of streets, filled with the sounds of daily life and the aroma of street food, is the essence of Hanoi’s charm. The city is also known for its intellectual and artistic traditions, including centuries-old puppetry and music.

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Visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Ba Dinh Square

Highlight Experiences

  • Strolling around Hoan Kiem Lake and visiting Ngoc Son Temple
  • Exploring the historic and lively Old Quarter
  • Sampling local Vietnamese cuisine, like Pho and Bun Cha
  • Watching a traditional water puppet show
  • Visiting the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and Museum
  • Enjoying the vibrant nightlife and local craft beer scene

>> Read More: 22 Best Things To Do In Hanoi

Hai Phong – The Hidden Beauty

As Vietnam’s third-largest city, Hai Phong is often seen as the gateway to the sea, with its essential seaport and coastal economy. The city blends industrial prowess with cultural richness, evidenced by its French colonial architecture, wide boulevards, and verdant city parks. Hai Phong serves as a jumping-off point for visitors to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ha Long Bay and the less-visited but equally enchanting Cat Ba Island, with their dramatic karst landscapes and clear waters.

Highlight Experiences

  • Touring the city’s landmarks like the Hai Phong Opera House and colonial-era architecture
  • Visiting Cat Ba Island for its beaches, national park, and adventure activities
  • Taking a cruise to Ha Long Bay from Hai Phong to explore limestone islands and caves
  • Tasting seafood specialties at local markets and restaurants
  • Experiencing the local festivals, such as the flamboyant Do Son Buffalo Fighting Festival

Halong – The Coastal Serenity

Halong Bay is a place of otherworldly beauty. Thousands of limestone karsts and isles, often shrouded in mist, rise from emerald waters, creating a mystical landscape. According to legend, these formations were created by dragons that descended to protect Vietnam from invaders. Today, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most iconic travel destinations in Asia, drawing visitors with its natural beauty and serenity.

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Behold the mystical beauty of Halong Bay

Highlight Experiences

  • Cruising amidst the karst formations on a traditional junk boat
  • Kayaking in hidden lagoons and discovering secluded beaches
  • Exploring the Sung Sot Cave (Surprise Cave) and its illuminated chambers
  • Watching the sunrise over the bay for an unforgettable experience
  • Visiting floating villages and learning about the local way of life
  • Trying squid fishing at night while on your cruise

>> See Tour: Vietnam Luxury Tour

Ninh Binh – The Scenic Majesty

Ninh Binh whispers tales of Vietnam’s regal past, set against a backdrop of dramatic landscapes. This province was once the proud capital of ancient Vietnam, during the Dinh and early Le dynasties, leaving behind a legacy that harmonizes with the natural beauty. Far from being a mere reflection of Ha Long Bay, as it is sometimes called “Ha Long Bay on Land”, Ninh Binh weaves together a tapestry of historical relics amidst a stunning matrix of rivers, limestone cliffs, and lush paddy fields.

Highlight Experiences

  • Exploring the historic remnants of Hoa Lu, Vietnam’s ancient capital
  • Taking a boat trip through the Trang An Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Marveling at the architectural wonder of Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Vietnam
  • Climbing the stone staircase to Mua Cave for a breathtaking valley view
  • Venturing through Cuc Phuong National Park, Vietnam‚Äôs first national park, rich in biodiversity and ancient trees
  • Enjoying a leisurely bicycle ride through the countryside, alongside rivers and between natural limestone pillars

>> Read More: Top 12 Things To Do In Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Da Nang – The Urban Beachscape

Da Nang, located in central Vietnam, showcases the country’s rapid urbanization while preserving its natural beauty. This lively city is renowned for its sandy beaches, including My Khe Beach, a popular destination for both locals and tourists. With the Marble Mountains as a backdrop and the Han River flowing through the city, Da Nang is a perfect blend of modernity, history, and natural splendor.

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Dragon Bridge in Da Nang City at night

Highlight Experiences

  • Relaxing on the pristine shores of My Khe Beach
  • Exploring the Marble Mountains and their hidden caves and temples
  • Crossing the Dragon Bridge and watching its weekend fire and water breathing show
  • Admiring the panoramic city views from the Ba Na Hills and visiting the Golden Bridge
  • Sampling the vibrant street food scene with local specialties like Mi Quang noodles
  • Touring the Museum of Cham Sculpture to delve into the region’s history

Hoi An – The Ancient Harmony

This is no doubt one of the loveliest cities in Vietnam! Hoi An is a living museum that captures the essence of an untouched Southeast Asian trading port from the 15th to the 19th century. Its well-preserved Ancient Town is an atmospheric blend of narrow lanes lined with traditional houses, lantern-lit at night, creating a magical ambiance. The city’s architecture is a confluence of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and French influences, reflecting its multicultural heritage and history as a merchant’s haven.

Highlight Experiences

  • Wandering through the cobblestone streets of Hoi An’s Ancient Town
  • Taking a traditional lantern-making workshop or attending a cooking class
  • Enjoying a sunset boat ride along the Thu Bon River
  • Cycling to the nearby An Bang Beach or exploring the surrounding rice paddies
  • Savoring Cao Lau, a regional dish unique to Hoi An
  • Visiting the Japanese Covered Bridge and the many historic homes turned museums

>> Read More: Essential Things To Do In Hoi An Of Vietnam

Hue – The Royal Splendor

Hue stands as a reverent custodian of Vietnam’s imperial past, once the capital of the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled the last feudal system of the country. The city is synonymous with its historical monuments, including the vast, walled Imperial City, akin to Beijing’s Forbidden City, with palaces and shrines that tell the story of Vietnam’s royal history. Hue’s poetic landscape is complemented by the Perfume River, which flows through the city, adding to its serene and nostalgic atmosphere.

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Poetic Perfume River in Hue

Highlight Experiences

  • Touring the UNESCO-listed Hue Imperial City and the Royal Tombs
  • Taking a leisurely boat ride on the Perfume River, especially enchanting in the evening
  • Visiting Thien Mu Pagoda, a historic temple that overlooks the river
  • Wandering the Dong Ba Market to try Hue’s royal cuisine, including banh beo and bun bo Hue
  • Enjoying traditional Vietnamese music performances
  • Biking around the city to discover its hidden charms and less-visited temples

>> See Tour: World Heritage Sites of Vietnam

Da Lat – The Misty Retreat

Often referred to as the “City of Eternal Spring” or the “City of Love”, Da Lat nestles in the cool climes of the Central Highlands. Its temperate weather, mist-covered valleys, and lush pine forests give it a distinctly different feel from Vietnam’s tropical cities. The city is famous for its French colonial architecture and the abundance of flowers that bloom in its parks and gardens, which have earned its third nickname, “The City of Flowers.” Da Lat’s laid-back vibe and scenic beauty make it a favorite among locals and tourists seeking respite from the heat.

Highlight Experiences

  • Visiting the iconic Da Lat Flower Gardens, home to a vast array of vibrant blooms
  • Taking a cable car ride to Truc Lam Zen Monastery for tranquility and panoramic views
  • Strolling around Xuan Huong Lake, especially in the early morning or late afternoon
  • Enjoying outdoor activities like mountain biking, trekking, or canyoning
  • Sampling locally-grown produce like strawberries and avocados and visiting coffee plantations to taste the region’s renowned coffee

Buon Ma Thuot – The Highlands’ Heartbeat

While overlooked by the typical tourist path, Buon Ma Thuot offers more than what you beckon for. This serene city is known as the coffee capital of Vietnam. Situated in the Central Highlands, the city is the heart of a region blanketed with coffee plantations. Beyond its caffeinated fame, Buon Ma Thuot offers access to the cultural wealth of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities and the natural beauty of the surrounding highland areas.

Highlight Experiences

  • Visiting the myriad coffee plantations and learning about coffee production, followed by a fresh brew tasting
  • Learning about the lives of Vietnam’s ethnic groups at the Ethnographic Museum
  • Trekking through Yok Don National Park, Vietnam’s largest national park, potentially spotting some wildlife
  • Enjoying the serenity of Lak Lake, taking a traditional dugout canoe trip, or visiting local M’nong villages
  • Joining the annual Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival if timing allows
  • Immersing in the bustling atmosphere of the city’s central market

>> See Tour: A Food Lover’s Tour Of Vietnam

Quy Nhon – The Serene Coastal Haven

Quy Nhon is a tranquil beach town that offers a more laid-back alternative to Vietnam’s more famous coastal destinations. It boasts a long, curving bay with beautiful beaches, clear waters, and a developing waterfront promenade. Quy Nhon’s history is rich with the Cham culture, with the remains of ancient Cham temples dotting the landscape.

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Aerial view of Quy Nhon Beach

Highlight Experiences

  • Catching the first sunrise in Vietnam from Eo Gio beach
  • Lounging on the sandy shores of Quy Nhon Beach or exploring the secluded beaches along the coastline
  • Visiting the Thap Doi Cham Towers, remnants of the ancient Cham civilization
  • Taking a scenic drive along the coastal road from Quy Nhon to the fishing village of Bai Xep
  • Discovering the local culinary scene with fresh seafood and Binh Dinh’s specialties
  • Spending time at the Quang Trung Museum, dedicated to the Tay Son Dynasty and the hero Nguyen Hue

Ho Chi Minh City – The Cosmopolitan Energy

Ho Chi Minh City, commonly called Saigon (its old name), is the economic powerhouse of Vietnam, pulsating with energy and ambition. This city is a melting pot of energy and ambition, racing towards the future while still cherishing its past. From traditional street food vendors to sleek skyscrapers and from historical relics to modern-day comforts, this city is a perfect blend of contrasts. The dynamic and fast-paced atmosphere of Ho Chi Minh City is truly one of a kind, making it a city that never sleeps.

Highlight Experiences

  • Exploring the historic District 1 with landmarks like the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon and the Central Post Office
  • Visiting the War Remnants Museum for a poignant look at the Vietnam War through Vietnamese eyes
  • Strolling down Dong Khoi Street, a hub for history, culture, and shopping
  • Savoring the flavors of Vietnamese cuisine at Ben Thanh Market
  • Experiencing the city’s nightlife, from rooftop bars to buzzing street food vendors
  • Taking a day trip to the Cu Chi Tunnels to understand the ingenuity of the Viet Cong during the war

>> See Tour: Classic Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi

Can Tho – Mekong’s Beating Heart

With its intricate network of waterways, Can Tho exudes an irresistible charm and character. It’s a place where boats and sampans are more common than cars, and where the serene rhythms of the river blend seamlessly with the diverse traditions of the Vietnamese heartland. The city’s colorful tapestry of cultural experiences offers a glimpse into the vibrant lifeblood of the Mekong Delta. Can Tho is a testament to the beauty of cultural diversity and a reminder that there’s always something new and wonderful to discover when we venture beyond our familiar surroundings.

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Can Tho Bridge at sunset time

Highlight Experiences

  • Visiting the Cai Rang Floating Market early in the morning to see it at its liveliest
  • Enjoying a boat tour through the narrow canals and streams to see the delta’s rich ecosystem
  • Exploring the Ong Pagoda or the Can Tho Museum to learn about local culture and history
  • Relaxing in one of the city’s many green spaces, like Ninh Kieu Park, alongside the Hau River
  • Sampling the region’s unique cuisine, which includes dishes like bun ca¬†(fish noodle soup) and grilled snails
  • Taking a bike ride through the countryside to see local farms and orchards

>> See Tour: Highlights of Central & Southern Vietnam

Phan Thiet – The Relaxed Vibes

Phan Thiet, a serene coastal town graced with an ever-stretching shoreline, is home to some of Vietnam’s most magnificent beaches and breathtaking sand dunes. This destination combines natural wonders with cultural richness, offering an escape where the desert meets the sea in a dramatic display of nature’s artistry.

Highlight Experiences

  • Marveling at the Red Sand Dunes (Doi Hong) and White Sand Dunes (Doi Cat Trang), possibly trying sandboarding
  • Visiting the Fairy Stream, a shallow water path through a colorful landscape of white, red, and orange sand
  • Enjoying the sun and surf at Mui Ne Beach, a hotspot for windsurfing and kitesurfing
  • Exploring the Po Shanu Cham Towers, remnants of the ancient Cham civilization
  • Sampling the local fish sauce, for which Phan Thiet is renowned, at a traditional factory

Nha Trang – The Riviera Feel

Nha Trang is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, where crystalline waters meet powdery white sands under the generous Vietnamese sun. Beyond the allure of its beaches, Nha Trang’s rich cultural tapestry comes to life in the form of the Po Nagar Cham Towers, standing majestically as a tribute to the ingenuity of the Cham civilization.¬†

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Sunny relaxation on Nha Trang Beach

Highlight Experiences

  • Soaking up the sun on Nha Trang Beach or exploring the quieter Bai Dai Beach
  • Diving or snorkeling among the vibrant coral reefs off the coast
  • Visiting the Po Nagar Cham Towers, which date back to the 7th century
  • Relaxing in the mineral-rich mud baths at the Thap Ba Hot Springs
  • Taking a boat trip to the nearby islands where you can swim in crystal clear waters
  • Exploring the Oceanographic Museum of Vietnam for an insight into marine life

Phu Quoc – The Island Paradise

Phu Quoc, a jewel in the Gulf of Thailand with its verdant hills and azure seas, offers a secluded sanctuary for nature lovers and sun seekers alike. This emerald isle attracts tourists with its enchanting beauty, tranquil beaches, and lush jungles, promising adventure and relaxation in equal measure.

Highlight Experiences

  • Soaking up the sun on the pristine shores of Long Beach or the secluded Ong Lang Beach
  • Snorkeling or diving to witness the mesmerizing coral reefs teeming with life off the southern coast
  • Absorbing the unique architecture and spiritual aura of the island’s Cao Dai Temple
  • Visiting a local pepper plantation to learn about the famous Phu Quoc’s pepper
  • Discovering nearby islands on a boat trip

>> Read More: The Ultimate Phu Quoc Travel Guide

Ca Mau – The Southernmost Serenity

Just like Ha Giang being the first, Ca Mau is the perfect closing for this list of “Best cities in Vietnam”. Perched at the southernmost tip of Vietnam, Ca Mau is a place where the earth tenderly meets the sea. This unique locale, cradled by the Mekong Delta’s intricate waterways, boasts a rich tapestry of ecological and cultural wonders. Here, life moves to the rhythm of the rivers and the whisper of the mangroves.

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Explore the southernmost point of the S-shaped land, Ca Mau Cape

Highlight Experiences

  • Journeying through the lush expanse of the Ca Mau National Park, a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve
  • Discovering the exotic nature of U Minh Ha forest
  • Checking in at the southernmost marker at Ca Mau Cape, where land and the sea intertwine¬†
  • Observing local life at Ca Mau’s floating markets
  • Tasting the succulent black tiger prawn, Ca Mau’s signature dish

>> See Tour: Splendours of Vietnam & Pristine Beach

Embrace The Wonders Of Vietnam

Vietnam’s allure lies in the rich tapestry of its diverse destinations, each a distinct thread contributing to the country’s vibrant cultural and natural quilt. Whether it’s the rugged mountain passes of Ha Giang, the serene limestone karsts of Ninh Binh, the labyrinthine alleys and historic charm of Hanoi, or the crystalline waters of Nha Trang, the question isn’t which city is the best, but what kind of story you want to write into your travel journal.

Ready to embrace Vietnam’s promise of adventure? Asia Pioneer Travel can help you design a journey as eclectic and remarkable as Vietnam itself. Craft Your Dream Holiday with our committed travel designers and let us take you to the heart of Vietnam’s wonders!¬†

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